Sweet Irish Soda Bread (Spotted Dick or Spotted Dog)
Those of the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread would like you to know that this is not traditional Irish Soda Bread. This is an impostor. And just to shame it into submission, it is better called Railway Cake, Spotted Dog or, yes, Spotted Dick. Take that you fake!
But I'm not Irish (at least, my family hasn't been Irish for decades) and so I can't bring myself to call my lovely little loaf any of those names. Can we agree on Sweet Irish Soda Bread? That way we have a qualifier that separates this bread from the traditional incarnation and I don't have to giggle every time I talk about it.
But anyway. If you're terrified of yeast (don't be) or just don't feel like waiting for multiple rises, and have tired of the typical quick bread, this is a wonderful compromise. It bakes up into a delightful sweet bread, with a crispy, crumbly crust and a soft crumb. Plus, raisin breads are almost always good. Irish raisin breads are better.
Sweet Irish Soda Bread
Sweet Irish Soda Bread
From Greg Patent's A Baker's Odyssey
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into pieces
2 cups dark raisins
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 large egg
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
With the oven rack in the center, preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry blender until the mixture is the consistency of fine meal. Once at this point, use your hands to pinch and fluff the mixture. Add the raisins and caraway seeds and mix in with your hands to distribute.
In another bowl, beat the egg with a fork, then stir in the buttermilk and baking soda. make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir with the fork until the mixture forms a damp dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and coat the dough with flour on all sides. Knead with you hands a few times, then flatten into a disk about 8" across. Place in the center of the prepared baking sheet and, with a floured sharp knife, make a 1/2" deep cross on top.
Bake for 45 minutes, then tent with foil and continue to bake for another 8-10 minutes. The loaf should be a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.